UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

 

Artists are well known for their creative ways of doing things or thinking outside the box about the norms. They simply see and embrace things with a different level of mindfulness and intensity. Brigit Ritchie, a painter and the Founder of WE, gives a sneak peek of what benefits and support women can expect from her company. She talks about the dynamics of relational mindfulness, how it works, and how it can improve your life. Brigit also shares the details of being committed, including the processes you can expect to go through. This episode covers the importance of all kinds of relationships in our life, starting with our relationship with ourselves.

Listen to the podcast here:

Brigit Ritchie: Embracing Intensity: How An Artist Is Creating Relational Mindfulness Through The Power Of WE

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We have an interview with none other than Brigit Ritchie. Who is Brigit? For the past several years, Brigit has been facilitating personal and professional development for women alongside her practice as a painter. As a Founder of WE, Brigit believes that the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. She has a passion for developing Relational Mindfulness to help people have thriving relationships. It’s a succinct bio and well thought out. She’s taken ten years to get there. We talk about many fascinating things including dropping into your body, trusting yourself, not over-complicating things, our perception of things, and not avoiding pain. There are also, different frameworks for thinking, a lot of the way she processes things through science and experience and questioning assumptions, to being a mom. She has two children and her son, Wyatt, is on the autism spectrum.

It was awesome to know her perspective of what she’s learned from him. It’s such a blessing to know also about her connection to God and the work that she’s doing. It was a fascinating conversation. I truly connected with her and loved taking a deep dive with her into her mind, her experiences, and the way she thinks. I feel of a similar mind as her. I enjoyed the depths we were able to get to. Everyone reading will be challenged, but also encouraged by a lot of what she shared. I’ve enjoyed as I do have some personal ties. My sister is one of her partners with WE and it’s been awesome to see the work that they’re doing. Check out all of the things are up to with WE and all of her art that she’s doing individually. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Brigit Ritchie.

Brigit Ritchie, welcome to The Up & Comers Show.

Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

This is going to be a blast. There’s so much to dive into. There are many aspects of you and your current work, but I just learned of a new one that I’d love to know on first, which is you are a speed reader. When did you become a speed reader and how did you develop that skill? Was that natural or was that practice?

I am technically a speed reader. I’ve been told by people who know that I’m a speed reader in the sense that I can inhale and digest information from reading quickly. It’s different than scanning. You can scan and pick up what you think is going to happen, but it’s different because apparently, you’re using a different side of your brain than most of the population who are reading. Technically, people use the right side of their brain with reading and I’m using the left. This came about because funny enough, I joked about it one time with my mother-in-law who an education expert, and the one thing I got a perfect score on was reading comprehension back in the day. She noticed I was reading books quickly and said, “You can make a living teaching people how to be a speed reader.” She was the first person who pointed out that it’s an actual skill.

We have a massive potential for joy, but we undervalue enjoying our lives. Click To Tweet

Do you think that it was the way you approached reading or was it maybe your creative or artist type background? What this just naturally came into that? When I hear you talk about that, it makes more sense if you are putting what you’re consuming into these models or frameworks that you’ve already created to help you synthesize them as you’re going, which leads to greater comprehension. Is that what’s going on?

I do think so. One of the themes in my life that I’ve always explored is flow states. I noticed that I get into a different flow state when I read other people. You could be apart from me a couple of feet, you’ll be talking to me and I will not hear you. It’s not like I’m ignoring you, it didn’t register because it’s such a level of zoning in that I feel that experience of getting out of your head and into your body. I do associate it a little bit with my drawing. It’s a similar physical experience and that I’m getting into that flow. Because of that, there is a creativity link for me. When I read, I get that almost like the physiological experience of a flow state and I don’t know that that’s typical, which is why another reason why I ascribe it to being a speed reader.

That is not typical, which is awesome. If it could be more typical, that’d be such a gift for people. What was the earliest experience of flow for you?

I feel like art, if not singing. I grew up making art. The first time I was trained in it, I was nine, but I feel like earlier than that, it was a natural instinct for me to want to draw or want to sing. Both of those things do tap me into flow states and then throughout my childhood and beyond, I’ve continued to be interested and what does get me to that place.

This is something that I’m fond of as well. Being an athlete, my job was how can you get into and maintain flow as long as possible. Golf was a unique challenge because you have to get into the flow for micro pieces of time for five or ten seconds, multiple times repeatedly over five hours. It’s an in and out bouncing of flow. It’s an interesting dilemma of how to do that. What do you see for you and your work or current life? What are the key mechanisms for getting into flow?

It’s funny because I call them triggers. I know that’s not necessarily a positive associated word. For me, I do know that science proves, but also my own experience. You can replicate flow by training your mind. It’s a neural pathway of habit where it’s going off, “If I do this. I can drop in.” I have a ton of respect for golfers because I’m married to one. I’ve watched a fair amount of my life. I’m blown away at the fact that they can get into that flow state. It’s under pressure, but alone. It’s not even that team collective energy that they’re experiencing. They’re individual and it’s similar to being an artist because there’s this jumping off a cliff sensation every time in my life, certainly, when I draw. I do drawing as a discipline to tap into flow more than I do it even as a professional career.

To me, it’s such a valuable experience and fuels so much else of what I do that has nothing to do with drawing. The other times that I feel like I drop into flow is when I allow myself to create a Relational Mindfulness curriculum and I am at that place where I am feeling out what the experience will be in the room. Having been an artist and facilitator this long, I’m not afraid of a blank slate. When I see a blank piece of paper, I don’t envision what I’ll put on it. When I see a blank screen of a new curriculum series, I don’t picture or think about what I’ll do. It’s almost like I can drop into my body and feel what will be and then from there, I follow the current.

That’s unique and rare. Why do you think most people are opposed to or fearful of that from those blank slates?

My answer would be two parts. The simpler answer is that has been in the past and a trigger to get them in their head rather than to get them into the flow. From a bigger perspective, I feel like few people trust themselves. I don’t know about that from a number of perspectives, but I don’t know that trusting yourself is something that’s valued. It is something that in and of itself is extremely powerful and connective. It can be messy. It is a process. One of the things that we’ve done at WE that is simple and powerful is simply revisited that question of what would happen if I trust myself? Also, if I trusted my instincts, desires, pain, process, joy, and all of these things that are fundamental to human. What if I did give more space to my gut as another way of talking about it? To me, that’s connected to flow.

UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

I have chosen, but also experienced in my life such a value for trusting myself and trusting other people that my association with a blank slate is one of excitement, hope, and creativity. Not necessarily something that immediately looks back at me and says, “Perform. Have an agenda. Know what’s going to happen.” I have committed and disciplined myself to the muscle of being interested in not knowing what’s going to happen or initially questioning my assumptions around things. I have goals and visions. When I sit down and write a curriculum, I have content I want to hit on and there are rules of how that has to happen. I try and always initially step back and give space to let things emerge.

I love the blend of that fierce obstinance along with creativity. There’s a cool blend there because it is a commitment you’ve made, but at the same time, it’s an experience and a process. The blending of those two is life. Was it always easy for you to blend those two, understanding the discipline that’s needed for creativity and not trying to keep them as separate things? A lot of times, we think about creativity, disciplines, and structure and we think they’re diametrically opposed, but they’re not. They’re complementary and both needed in a lot of ways. What does that process of growth been like for you as you’ve developed not only as an artist but as a facilitator?

My discipline starts internally. If I don’t enjoy and I’m committed to my internal process, I can’t externally commit to discipline. If I do, it’s short term and it’s clunky. It doesn’t work anyway and it can get me off track. One of the things that I’ve essentially been obsessed with as a person and even going back to this idea of trusting yourself is understanding efficiency. That’s the word I use. I don’t think other people do, but when I talk about efficiency, I’m not talking about getting things done quickly. I am always curious about the fundamental elements of something. To me, creativity discipline structures. All those things are always an overflow of your paradigm. The place that I bring the most discipline to is for better or for worse, mindsets would be probably what people refer back to.

The way that I make art is the same thing. It’s an overflow of the same thing for the way that I’m a parent and I’m a friend. Everything that I have, I believe comes out of one source and that is my paradigm. That’s what I believe about myself in the world and people. That’s where I start with my discipline. I’ve been a person who said, “If I believe this, I want to believe it and live it.” That’s something that people do. I’m talking about it more in terms of when you talk about the opposite, I’ve always been willing to pay the price for something. Oftentimes, I’m willing to pay the price for pleasure, love, enjoyment, and joy. Those are the things that when I talk about discipline it’s not all hard. It’s more staying focused and committed to something. It starts with the inside.

Always willing to pay the price because, at the end of the day, everything requires you to pay a price. That’s life. Here are some of the words that people use to describe you, relentless connection, intensity, power and play, and too deep.

I’m thankful for those words. Too deep is the only best part of my life.

What does that mean to you? What comes to mind when you hear those descriptors?

I feel known. In many ways, I grew up and this is what I perceived more than probably a reality. Maybe I should hold back a little bit of my intensity or that I should negotiate it with the culture that I was a part of. It’s honoring for me to hear people celebrate that part of me because it’s something that’s been a long process for me to own and enjoy. In some ways, those words all sound intense because they are. There’s vulnerability about that, especially as a woman. Allowing that part of me to be what people associate with me, it tells me that I’m being honest about who I am.

That ties well with the point of WE. What is WE? I would love to dive into what is Relational Mindfulness because those are some powerful concepts.

Relationships are the most powerful experience we can have. Click To Tweet

WE is a company that I founded. It exists to develop Relational Mindfulness in companies and in communities through experiential programs. It essentially teaches people how to have a relationship, connect with themselves, with other people and with their greater community. Those three dynamics essentially are Relational Mindfulness. It’s the idea of what would it look like to bring attention and awareness to the quality of relationships as a value in and of itself. In many ways, there’s such great work being done in helping people reimagine well-being and thinking about their body, their professional advancement or other things that define your quality of life. Through listening to people and through my journey, I do believe that relationships are ultimately the thing that gives your life meaning and purpose. Everything else is all rooted in relationships and for relationships. I do include the relationship with yourself in that.

I feel lucky to do something that I find fascinating and that is creating that container. We essentially are this container where we talk about principles of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and inclusive leadership. We want to explore relationships and our tagline is “We are all we need” because the way that we want to explore relationships is through experience. It’s with each other. It’s with who’s in the room, their stories, what they know, what they offer and what they bring. It’s intended to be extremely simple. I committed when I started it to not overcomplicate it because I wanted it to not be necessarily more content, expert panel or speaker series. I wanted it to be an experience of people coming together, giving, receiving and listening to each other, and getting the wisdom that we often pass up in the relationships we already have and within ourselves.

I feel like we’re always chasing the novelty and silver bullet with these things like, “What’s one quick hit or quick fix that can solve all my problems?” We keep going to these more novel or new things when it’s right in front of us and the person sitting across from us.

It’s the case. I’ve seen it happen over and over.

How did you understand the importance of making that commitment and how do you remain committed to not over complicating it? That is the biggest temptation in anything, especially the book. The process of that for me was such tension and battle to get lost in the intricacies and the complexities within it. The same with golf. What was that like for you?

I’m committed to the fundamentals of something. That’s who I am. I’m always curious like, “All this stuff is here, but if you strip everything away, what’s the only thing that matters? What’s the thing that is the engine or drive?” I almost think of it as like the raw elements. That’s partially the way my brain works. Secondly, I grew up in an environment where there was a particular truth and every other truth was totally invalidated. There were people who had that truth and no one else did. I ended up having a value for listening because I didn’t experience it and I didn’t see it modeled or valued a lot in my life. I wouldn’t say there weren’t people who were doing that. It wasn’t the primary thing that was away. I was broken when I started WE. I wouldn’t say when I started WE is when I started developing Relational Mindfulness. I was humbled and I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be another person or another voice trying to tell people who they are and how to do it. I want to be a person and a facilitator who serves.” That’s what I want to do.

I want to come around people and activate them to know their story, their relationships, and listen and receive from the stories, people and relationships they’re in. It’s a disservice to the people I care about and want to serve for me to overcomplicate it. That’s my ego. It’s one of the things I’m dedicated to. This is not about me and it’s not about anybody. It’s about that collective experience of when WE come. It’s that tribal experience that we do miss out on for a lot of reasons. I was committed in some ways to do that in a simple way. I almost want to revisit as we scale on and as we grow. How do we continue to simplify down to the core elements of what helps people connect, and be seen, heard and valued?

I love the example of the presence that you showed. That’s a high level and threshold of self-awareness, which doesn’t happen by chance. It’s one of the biggest needs in modern society. I love that in recognizing how we’re saying things and what that communicates about us at the moment. In that process of developing WE, take us back to the start, meaning that pivotal moment of change and the turning point in the road. It sounds like there was a moment. Can you take us to that place and describe how you made that shift from accepting to evaluating and determining for yourself inwardly?

I’m an artist. I went to The Art Institute of Chicago a long time ago. Funny enough, I studied there visual and critical studies, which is essentially a perception of how we see. It has come full circle in my obsession with a paradigm, lens, and mindsets. Being an artist, I am interested in systems and conceptualizing the human experience, even though abstract paintings. I’ve always been someone that was fascinated by people. I would get together these women and it looked like a lot of different ways for a bit. I was with a friend of mine facilitating The Artist’s Way circles, which is essentially about unlocking your creativity. I couldn’t help myself but try, understand and help other people process how we do, why we do, why we’re making, what we’re making, and the source of what we’re making.

UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

I had a wonderful experience and I highly recommend that The Artist’s Way if you’re looking to understand your creativity. Here I am, essentially just hit a breaking point. Maybe it’s rock bottom or one of these intersections in your life. In my late twenties, I had two kids. I had one child that’s on the autism spectrum and I had never heard of autism. I was in six figures of debt and completely broke, a painter said, “No way. Make money.” My husband had a mysterious illness that we could not figure out for years and he had completely lost his mind. His personality was a different person. He was super struggling and I was done with being someone who was trying. We all go through struggles, but I knew that if I approached the struggle I was in, my marriage was not in a good place. If I continue to go after the issues in my life that I felt completely overwhelmed by in the same way, I would never get free. It intuitively emerged in my mind that what I needed was not a quick fix.

It wasn’t even a solution because I realized looking at myself and looking at everybody has a relationship with that we are never going to avoid pain in this life. We have a massive potential for joy and we undervalue enjoying our lives. I’ve seen it over and over, but if my mission in life is to get out of the mess I’m in, in order to get into some different types of pain, that’s not interesting to me. I saw this obsession with efficiency and I thought, “That’s not going to happen. I know a bunch of other women around me and they have nothing in common with me. They might not have kids and they might not have debt. They might not have all these things that I’m underwater in, but they have their wisdom and I have mine. What if I could get people together, break it down to the fundamentals and support each other as women?

I wanted it to be women who didn’t have everything in common. Come back to that place of that human experience of connecting without an agenda, doing life with people and processing with each other what it could look like at the moment that we’re in. Be who we want to be and learn from each other.” I felt alone, even though I had relationships and I realized, “I feel alone because I’m not utilizing relationship right.” I’m getting these coffee dates in or I’m friends with someone because we had the same yoga class, but in my life at the time, I felt like an anomaly. I thought, “How can we be in a relationship beyond circumstantial relatability?” Which I found out later is a phrase I use that is not technically English. I thought it sounded great. I’m going to coin that even though it’s not a real thing.

That’s a long process and that’s the beginning. In that process for you, over the years, what were the stages of that? What would you call the different seasons of that development? You don’t just go from circumstantial relatability into Relational Mindfulness. There’s a massive chasm between those two things.

At the time, season one was I was already creative group coaching. I had grown up in an environment that believed in development. I grew up in a place where people are wanting to do better, be better, grow and perform. I already had a value for development. I couldn’t help myself but create experiences where people are doing that. I started to be blown away by people’s responses to just even that and that’s what beyond creativity or the roots. Women wanted to develop their creativity, but it would always come back to a relationship, partnership, kids or their relationship with themselves. I realized that I did come into that belief that I have, which is that relationships are the most powerful experience we can have. They’re not the only thing, but they are fundamental to meaning, belonging and truly being reaching our potential.

Season two would be trying some things where I would create experiences and I would have people over for dinner parties or I did host a number of retreats. I came to this place of realizing that I cared about what happened in the room when people were given a space to use their voice, listen to other people, and support each other. It happened gradually for me. I tell people that I’ve been technically doing this type of experiential programming for many years, but it looked different. Sometimes, it was more from a spiritual lens. Sometimes, it was more from the relational lens and sometimes, it was more of a creative lens, but for me, there was this progression of finally getting to the place where I did develop.

When I got to Downtown LA, I felt such amazing energy here and met many unbelievable women I had so much respect for. That was a huge catalyst for me from going from this general approach to helping women and bringing them together. I want to create something that is meaningful that true transformation happens. I don’t necessarily want to define what that transformation is, but I do believe we are transformed through relationships. You can’t stay the same. You can’t be the same person once you’re known an intimate, truly connected way with another person. I thought that there are a few elements I’ve learned along the way that create transformational experiences. In my opinion, it’s what we’ve coined as a society. Maybe other people use that, but we put a huge emphasis on process-oriented. I said, “I want to create a curriculum where you’re committed.” In LA, that was non-existent and it’s still is. Where you commit to partnering with people over time, to be honest with you, that’s like maybe one of the biggest secret sauces of WE.

It’s wild because once you commit to other people for a period of time, you show up and you invest totally differently. If that’s all we did here and we came to their own, we wouldn’t get the same amount out of it, but something profound would happen. People are looking to go beyond the surface and you can’t do that in one event. Even if I didn’t hyper facilitate every single experience, if they know and if they’re anticipating unconsciously that that feeling of, “I’m in this with you. I’m showing up for you and you’re showing up for me. We’re going to go on a journey together.” That to me was a huge variable. Does anything was this idea of having the time, me too, time’s up or any of these things, but I am an unlikely candidate to do women-only because I didn’t have great female relationships growing up? I don’t always feel like I’m the person in the room who’s the most liked. I’m social, but not court. On the Enneagram, I’m not a three, I’m an eight.

I have worked a lot on being somebody because I care about people. I want to create a space where there feel invited in, but there’s a lot of reasons why I was unlikely to do women-only. The reason I did women-only for WE was honestly because there was some unexplainable and undeniable magic that happened. It wasn’t cute. It wasn’t like, “The girls are together and we’re being cute together.” It was like, “This is some crazy power in this room.” When you got women in a space, it was a matriarchal experience and I thought, “This is wild. It doesn’t even matter what we do. If we all come in with an agreement and a yes to each other, that’s it.” It’s like alchemy. I’m sure men-only had that same, almost primal experience. We miss out on that in society.

We are transformed through relationships; you can't stay the same. Click To Tweet

I wasn’t necessarily in it to create gender equality or address important feminist issues that I have had the privilege to learn more about. I did it as a way to say, “In our society, we don’t have these collective female-only experiences and we’re missing out on that magic.” I build out this simple structure. I founded WE with my friend Kara Dykert who’s at Kara Elise. She brought this important hospitality piece. You oversimplify how things emerged and I brought essentially this curriculum of Relational Mindfulness, which is developing a relationship with yourself, other people and LA. Those three things, being process-oriented, being women-only, and the basic structure for Relational Mindfulness, emerged based on my value and connection with Downtown LA. That was essentially how I went from somebody who wants to create experiences for people to hone in on the specifics of what we became. From there, Kara and I invited twelve women to be part of a twelve-week program and tested it. That’s the start of it.

I have become such a big believer in that, “We learn by doing, not by thinking.” Thinking informs a lot of the doing, but at the end of the day, you have to take action to figure out what it is. How much of your process in WE was figuring it out by doing it and learning what works and what doesn’t versus coming in with that model? It seems like that’s a process for anything. How do you approach learning or intuitively moving into what it needs to be? How do you get to that place to know what the actual needs are in that space for WE?

In many ways, we’ve honed in on what is the need for every person and trying to respond to that specifically through WE. I start there because we’re not trying to be everyone, do everything or answer every need, but what we are trying to do is continue to always refine and bring back our learnings on how to create a space where people know and develop a relationship. That being said, one of the other differentiators we have for WE is active participation. What you’re talking about is something that we commit to at a cost. I refuse to start to lean in this direction of being a space where people are just passively receiving content. There’s so much good info out there. I’m not anti-information at all. I’m a reader. In many ways, this is not that space. It is 20% talking. Court and I only talked for 20% of the time and 80% of it is what happens in the room.

It’s one of the commitments that Court and I have as facilitators are that we don’t have an agenda. We create this framework and then we allow the doing to happen. We bring in basic prompts about emotional intelligence, relationship and things that have been proven through research to give people more agency and ability to choose their life, develop, and connect with others. We let people have their own experience. One of our values is that we trust other people with their process. You might come in here one day and interact with the information different than the person next to you. That’s exactly what we have in mind. To answer your question, it is at least 80% doing and 20% ideas.

I know, for me, there’s a lot of things that constantly that seem counterintuitive. Figuring out by doing is almost a counterintuitive thing. At the moment, we always feel like we need to get to a place of knowing before we start doing. For you personally, what are the practices or the self-talk? What are the things that you do to keep yourself committed to these things? We’ve talked a lot about commitments, but commitments are never an easy road. That’s partly why there may be rare because it’s harder to be committed than not to be. We have to stack the deck in our favor a lot of times. What are the ways that you help yourself in that process of staying committed to those things? What does self-talk in embracing this even as a lifestyle?

Commitments are hard when you don’t have a vision. When you have a vision, they’re not that hard because the alternative sucks. I’m committed to what works. For me, that’s a holistic meaning of what works. I’m not interested in being somebody who has ideas, toys with them and then dies. I want to embody something true to what’s possible. I feel responsible in some ways because I’m not a martyr. I never was and I still am not. I’m not somebody who enjoys pain. I’ve always said to myself a quote that I love and it’s from Chris Walton, “Vision gives pain a purpose.” That’s how I experienced that quote. I joke a lot with people when they ask my advice or something, I say, “I’m a committed person, I’m disciplined and I’m somebody who is intense probably, but I’m intense about enjoying my life.” I think about what that means. That’s a great gift I can give my kids and my community.

I’m in tune with my mortality. I’m somebody who reflects a lot on the fact that I’m going to die. The result of that is I am interested in putting my energy to get to a place where it matters. I’m extremely disciplined about my energy. All that is only because I want to be in healthy relationships. I want to enjoy my life and I want to contribute whatever creativity I have. Because I have that vision, these commitments don’t feel that hard. In many ways, I learned like anybody else and that’s through things not working. I’m not trying to get everything perfect by any stretch. I’m not a martyr. I am somebody who’s fascinated. If I simplify and I commit to these things, that investment means I will be a person who is myself. I was enjoying my life and I lived well.

Vision is powerful. What are the things for you in a vision? What are the reminders? How do you keep yourself in alignment with that vision daily?

Vision is experiential. It’s also not an idea. I am not somebody who has a “vision for perfection” or certainly not for avoiding pain. I get exposed to things that feel Life. It’s that idea of magic in the sense that I’ve had moments and experiences in my own life where I said to myself, “This is the person I want to be,” or learning from others and thinking, “That’s such a fantastic and wonderful human. I want to be like that. I want to live my life like that.” My values are relationships, creativity, and in many ways, the privilege it is to help other people. It isn’t an idea. I don’t necessarily journal or meditate as much as I should. I’m not a systems person because I do find I do best when I’m in touch with my intuition. That doesn’t mean that I don’t value people. I have coaching and it’s all-important to develop a way to do things. I’m disciplined, but I’m mostly disciplined to listen to my gut. From there, I feel like I continuously come back to a system that’s rooted in that. I love journaling, meditating, moving my body, listening and asking powerful questions. I love continuing to make new work. I love music, art, and all those things. That’s simple. I tune in and listen to my gut.

UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition

Moving from the head into the body. That’s a cool way of thinking about it. I haven’t heard it described in that sense before. When you’re working, communicating or helping others, what are the encouragements, prompts or the advice you give to people to help ourselves move from the head and drop into the body more in our daily lives or daily decisions?

People do profound things when they feel safe. If I could give anybody anything, it would be a safe space because that’s when I’ve seen people do amazing things. That’s when I see them slow down, tune in and connected to the core of who they are. A safe space is a place that’s committed to them, trust them, honor them, and is unconditional. With WE, we have one condition and that’s willingness. You have to be willing to come in, but when you come in, if you commit as best as you can to be willing to participate, contribute, give, and receive. From there, you’re in a safe place. There are many ways that you can get to know yourself and start to trust yourself. You can feel the flow, you can be vulnerable and you can connect to someone else.

It might depend on who you are, how you’re wired, and what season of life you’re in. For me, it is a guarantee that you will get to that place if you’re in a safe space and you’d be surprised. People don’t have to have a lot and you don’t have to do much but provide it, which surprised me because I do have a cynical side. I’m always somebody who wants to know the reality. I’m as much as possible committed to reality. I’m not trying to just feel good or do the right. I want to understand what is real. Something that I’ve tried to stay objective about is like, “Are we doing something that matters? Are we helping people? Is it just like warm and fuzzy feelings, they leave and it never matters?” I’m always trying to stay curious about the reality of what we’re providing for people. The thing that I’m always surprised about is how people respond to a safe space. It is extremely rare. No matter how much pain or even trauma you’ve been through, you don’t feel impacted and you don’t emerge to be more yourself when you’ve repeatedly experienced the safe space.

Does that have to be created externally or can that be facilitated internally? Can we create a safe space for us to start embracing that if we haven’t? Is that needing to be facilitated usually from outside in before we can do that inside out?

I believe that you have to be exposed to something to know it’s possible. You might only be exposed to it as an idea. It might occur to you, although it’s unlikely. You have to have exposure and in my life, I have been exposed to unconditional love, to being truly respected and truly given a safe space. Because of that, I don’t have an idea of what a safe space is, I have an embodied experience. It’s not going to be the same thing for every person. There’s a fundamental quality of a safe space that I know and I can provide because I haven’t been exposed to it. That’s what’s powerful about a relationship. When you do expose someone to love, they then have the option to be a lover, but we have to see it, taste it and feel it before we can give it away to other people.

Something that I got feedback from other people about you is that people are curious to know about what you think is the potential for human connection because this is your wheelhouse. You are someone that has had exposure and is leaning into the possibility. What do you think is possible for human connection?

We are in the most profound moment of human history for human connection and that sounds aggressive. It is profound and I feel lucky to be alive. People are being forced to reimagine what it looks like with technology, transient, the suffering that’s happening on our planet, and with all of the wonderful inventions. There are many particular intersections of human experience that makes us be able to throw out some of the historical narratives around the connection that are not serving us. To reimagine and recreate how human connection could look, how much more profound it could shape us as systems institutions. I tell people that relationship is like clean water. It is crucial and it is a fundamental human need.

You have to be in a relationship to survive, not just thrive. There is this idea of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which has been questioned since then, but the principle of it stands. Human connection is a global fundamental human need for survival. You have to belong. You have to be in a relationship on some level with other people. I believe that the work we do is the most basic level of human need. It’s not like, “How do we overanalyze one thing that’s privileged?” We come at it from a privileged standpoint because that is the nature of our story. We do our best to bring it back to an extremely inclusive and widespread experience. I would love WE to be a voice in a global movement for people to say, “It’s all about relationships. It’s all about the person in front of me.”

When you say that this is one of the greatest, I agree. This has got to be one of the greatest time to be alive in history. Do you say that from the perspective of the greatest need or the greatest opportunity or both in relationships or in connection with that theme or that vein? In one sense, we are the most connected world there’s ever been, but in the other sense, we’re almost the most disconnected world that’s ever been because of over connection.

Commitments are hard when you don’t have vision. Click To Tweet

It’s fantastic how technology and many other components of how we’ve progressed have given us access. It’s that exposure piece. It’s fantastic to be exposed to the other side of the world. There are many unbelievable connections and relationships we have that are only possible because of that. What is it going to become a valued commodity is interpersonal relationships. We are not equipped like we used to be for a good reason to relate to people. That’s why the work that we do, teaching people emotional intelligence, I take it seriously. It’s not a fancy thing to be more liked by people. It is a profound need that people need to be trained. They need to learn how to relate to people on a deeper level. You referenced self-awareness and that’s an emotional intelligence skill that you learn.

I have a huge passion for people to feel that they are equipped with. It’s not a mystery. People shouldn’t know how to do relationships in this day and age. Their parents didn’t have the same experience as them. We have to all come together and share our collective wisdom about how to relate and how to be in a relationship in a way that’s not just conversation, “We show up at the same time and the same place.” “You make me feel good and I boost your ego.” It’s like, “We can truly shape each other, support each other and collaborate.” It’s fantastic. It’s like a painting. It’s such a creative experience being in a relationship that I’m always endlessly fascinated by. It’s almost like not giving the credit it deserves. I’m realistic about the challenges. I don’t know the nuances of people who are in a different situation than me, but I do know that we all need it and we all want it. We would all benefit from relationships that are given attention, awareness, and vision.

What are the factors in modern society for you or that you see in others that are fighting against or making a swim upstream in this battle for connection? What are the things that are hurting our connection?

One thing is a movement away from identifying by likeness by saying, “We grew up in the same neighborhoods. We’re in a community. It’s not necessarily the case anymore. I don’t know my neighbors.” This idea of, “We’re in the same religion, so we have a sense of belonging.” Fewer people than ever are associating themselves with their religion for better and for worse. That goes for every single way that we use to identify has shifted. I don’t know that it’s even watered down. In many ways, it’s integrated and overlapped. People are identifying and knowing themselves beyond these circumstances or labels.

I’m not saying that to downplay those things. Those things are extremely important and real parts of their identity. People are starting to say, “Who am I?” It’s being a little bit more nuanced or overlapping. That’s a fascinating thing. I look at all the things that we do from more of a scientific standpoint than I do necessarily trying to make a judgment about that. I hesitate to demonize technology or any type, even our history with relationships. I’m committed to saying, “Where’s the opportunity? How can we serve people? What tools do they need? How can we all get creative?” I get excited about going, “Let’s commit to a posture of hope about what’s possible.”

We’re in this loft in Downtown LA and it is overflowing with creativity. Speaking of downtown LA, how long have you been here and what have you found in the unique challenges and blessings of living in a place like Los Angeles?

I love LA and I hope I never leave. It can be a difficult place to be, but I have a special affection for it because it does in many ways more than any other city I’ve been in. This is my personal experience. It has this opportunity and that experience embodied. I don’t see opportunity in a naive sense. Everyone here has an opportunity because that’s certainly not the case, but it’s more the spirit of it. There’s this idea of the potential. Downtown LA in itself is entrepreneurial and gritty. It has this rough around the edges experience that I love. I find LA endlessly fascinating. You can find anything you want here for better and for worse.

I like putting myself in that position of having to navigate the ups and downs and the highs and lows of LA. I do recommend getting out of it for once in a while. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t think that I could have started WE in any other city, but LA, because people will listen to you if you have a good idea and you prove yourself. They’re open. I say that in some ways with a grain of salt because I had the privilege of meeting the right people and having a lot of supportive community around me. There are many people, women, artists and creatives here who I wish had a voice and didn’t. At the same time, I am interested in the spirit of the city feels. If you try and you put yourself out there, you never know what can happen.

There is an energy that’s undeniable. Everyone who moves your experiences and it spits out as many people as it embraces in that sense. It is a polarizing energy. You grew up in Chicago and you were there for a while. You moved to Northern California for a bit and then you came down to LA. How do you think about the impact of culture on your perspective? Moving away from the Midwest and into the West Coast, how have those shifts the lens and the perspective from which you see the world?

UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

Embracing Intensity: Human connection is a global and fundamental human need for survival. You have to belong and be in a relationship on some level with other people.

 

I grew up in the Midwest and I do feel like there are many great things about growing up there. In many ways, I benefited from a sense of stability, security, and history. I feel that I’m the person that maybe it’s my wiring or how I want to live my life. Without a doubt, I feel refreshed and able to be myself on the West Coast in a way that I couldn’t reach my potential, thrive or grow and evolve in a way that I wanted to in the subculture and the familiarity I was in. Evolution is something that I also am committed to and disciplined about. It was helpful for me to be in an environment where there was that like-minded commitment. My experience of California has such support and commitment to evolution, to evolving who you are, what you’re making and what you’re contributing. I can’t live without it now.

I feel like it has to be the number one cultural melting pot in the world. It is a daily challenge to the box that we put ourselves and others in. When we can become aware that it can be a helpful thing. One of the themes that you’ve talked about a lot is the balance of not only work, but pleasure and play and, enjoying life and fighting for that intensity in all areas. For me and for a lot of people in LA, it’s a challenging thing to do in a place like LA when the demands on all fronts, time, money, energy, opportunity, and everything is way more demanded of you because of opportunity. Let’s dive into this intensity of work and play. How do you maintain that commitment? What does that look like for you?

In many ways, LA exposes you to what’s possible about pushing yourself, almost intensity, and your capacity. I’m impressed by the people who I’m in a relationship with who have done things differently. They do want to work hard and play hard, but it’s more than that. It’s thriving in some way and whatever that looks like for them. That can become almost an impossible thing in and of itself. We can’t take ourselves too seriously, but I’m inspired and motivated by always exploring this question. When I think about my life, the integration of balance, work and play, I do everything and I’m always curious. I’m always asking myself questions and I’m always coming back to, “How can I tinker or toy with this?”

Secondly, I’m stubborn in refusing to put limits on myself based on the way I’ve seen it done before. The greatest thing that shapes my life or that I’m most obsessed with is being a mom. It is a massive source of my purpose and my energy, but I have always questioned, “What does that mean to be a mom? What is this role I’m in? What are these societal limitations that I’m unconsciously absorbing?” I do a lot of unconventional things as a mom and I’ve never regretted it. I’m certainly not trying to be perfect about it or even assume that I am not going to look back in ten years and think, “I could’ve done that differently.” What I do know is that I’m doing my best and I’m being true to myself. I feel like I’m sticking to the real values that I hope my kids do absorb. Along the way, I am not a typical mom and I use that as an example. The first step in finding balance in your life is questioning your assumptions around your limitations. That works for me because of how I’m wired, but I do recommend it. It’s helped me.

Questioning assumptions is massive. That’s helping us understand the ways we’re influenced, whether we know it or not. The question is, “On which side do you find yourself leaning towards the most? How do you recorrect to center in between work and play in those?

I started with always the mindset. Once you questioned your assumptions, what do you do? Something that pops in my head that was interesting was when Brené Brown talks about belonging and she says, “It has to start with I am enough.” In LA, it’s easy to feel like, “I could always do more.” I hear that internal dialogue in my head and I catch it. I try to have zero tolerance for that because that’s not going to work. If I stay grounded and rooted in the experience that I am enough, then I feel like I make good choices about what to do. From there, I can filter through what to do. I don’t do things to make people happy. I don’t do things that I don’t feel like there’s flow around and I try not to force things.

I try to always make sure that I feel connected in my relationships with the people that matter to me the most and I always value play. Women, in general, don’t value play enough. If you want to ask which way I lean, I lean towards being hard on myself, working more and performing. I’ve found invaluable, not just playing when it’s easy in my extra time. I’m not talking about self-care, I’m talking about creating a structure in my life where I plan my play and when I’m playing, I’m playing. That looks like everything from music, dancing, singing, drawing, art shows, supporting my friends at their stuff that’s important to them, traveling with my family and all these things that I’m lucky to be able to do. I take it seriously.

I love the thing that you brought up that I am enough. That’s contrasted with I can do more and that is the two opposing voices that we hear so much. I remember a sermon I had been obsessed from Tim Keller on Work and Rest and the importance of the Sabbath. He brings up this, “The inner murmur of the soul is what we all feel and the Sabbath helps counteract that.” The inner murmur is that voice saying, “I’m not enough until I do this. I’m not worthy until X, Y, or Z.” It keeps us from resting and part of the design from God and the Sabbath is to say, “No, you are enough.” It’s a literal weekly practice of like, “Pause. I’m enough.” It’s been fulfilling.

It’s been life-giving for me to recommit to that practice after being away from it for a while. I’ve experienced the power of that for sure. I want to come back to being a mom. That’s one thing that even your husband had mentioned that a lot of people don’t know that you’re a mom when they meet you. They’re shocked and surprised. He was like, “That’s cool.” It’s such a strong complement to the way that you are a mother and how you approach that. You mentioned unconventional ways that you like to be a mom. When you think of unconventional ways of mothering or parenting, what have you found most surprisingly effective? What have you enjoyed most about those ways?

You have to be exposed to something to know it’s possible. Click To Tweet

I was given the privilege of having a child with autism because I realized early on, if not right away, I had a reverence for not identifying as a mother of a child with special needs. That does not mean that’s not a huge part of who I am. I do discipline a lot of things with this because it’s important to say, “This is my experience.” There’s a lot of women out there who had a child with special needs and have dedicated their lives to supporting and even in advocating for special needs. That’s fantastic. I knew for me that it would not be coming from the right place. I felt a pull to get lost and be absorbed by this source of struggle in my life. I saw how easy it would be for me to identify as a mom of a kid with special needs because it is all-consuming. It never goes away.

You’re always living with the reality of the unpredictable nature. Some of the challenges and the limitations and the struggle that it has is watching somebody you love so much and that you’re responsible for. You want to open up the entire world to have a real struggle, pain, and limitations. I realized that it was going to come down to a brutal commitment not to do that. That set me on a journey of not questioning, “How can I honor my son by being a mom with a child with special needs, but not getting my whole identity lost in that and having in some ways the energy and the resources to bring into that relationship by being myself, developing myself and understanding who I am in and out of that?”

I absolutely know that having a kid with autism, it started me down that path where I started to go, “I am someone who is committed to playing, creating, relationship and these exploring flow states because of the regenerative ideation I see that comes out of that.” That incredible sense of more happens naturally rather than me trying to force it because I’m an intense person. If I direct my energy in the wrong place, it doesn’t work. If I’m committed to finding ways to create that ease, magic, and flow in my life, then my intensity is as well used. There’s a couple of things I do all the time that are unconventional and I’m lucky to have one in my life who accept me the way that I am, don’t judge me and know how unbelievably important my kids are. They’re the most important thing to me as well as my partner.

A great example is where I am. I commute and I have this amazing space. Once or twice a week, I might stay down here and honestly, if I could do anything for any mom, it would give her that. Having space, even physical space, I do it functionally because we’ll have an evening event and I’ll have a meeting the next morning or something. I’ll think that the kids are asleep anyway. That was one of the most interesting turning points in my life is when I created space for that. I immediately thought like, “No, I can’t do that. I got to go home and make sure I’m there.” Taking that idea of questioning our assumptions and being curious, I started to notice that when I was with them, I had more energy. Our conversations were more fun and meaningful. I, unfortunately, come from a background where there’s one way to do things and it’s taken a lot of effort in my mind to give myself a lot of grace. Also, be gentle with myself and questions and immediate assumptions I have about what it means to be a good or a dedicated mom.

When you say that, it’s fascinating because it’s something that I’ve never imagined. I’m not a parent and I’m not going to be a mom. When you think about the family construct and the way that families typically operate, oftentimes, the father will have a week away for work. That’s normal, but it’s not on the other end. It’s like, “Is this a good asymmetry or not?” One of the things that I had a couple of people bring up that I love to know is the core values of your family because I know that this is one of the most important things for you and your life. I would love to know what those core values are. How you and your husband constructed those core values or came about creating that for your family?

We’re both intense people. I’m excited for you to get to know Noah more. We’re both intentional and thoughtful people. We want to take the good and leave the bad to overstate it much of what we understood of relationship and family dynamics to be. The opportunity to have a kid on the autism spectrum gave us a fresh start in some ways that we didn’t take anything for granted. We did establish some core values. Words are funny things because they’re meaningful in an experiential way to me and it probably different than other people. One of our core values is everyone is respected. Respect doesn’t mean like, “We look up to you because you did the right thing.” Everyone is respected means we honor that you have your individual experience and we listen to you. You have a voice and we don’t impose upon you our experience or our agenda for you.

Another one is everyone is enjoyed, which is funny because it comes back to that value for play. We invite people to not only delight in and enjoy each other, but allow themselves to be known and enjoy it, too. We create environments where we laugh, dance, sing, we all play music, and we play and that’s important. It’s a little bit similar to respected, but it’s trusted. It’s this idea that we believe that you’re doing your best. We believe that that’s your instinct because you’re well-loved. Because we’re for you, you may betray yourself and going to do stupid stuff. We all do. We’re not these ideal people and people are capable of some things. I believe that even having kids is only confirmed in my life. We all wanted to do our best and we’re all, for the most part, trying to get our needs met. In some ways, that’s created a level of forgiveness, grace, and space for people to have a process. My friends joke with me a lot about this, they’re like, “You’re obsessed with process.” I’m one of those people who is cheesy like, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” That is on my tombstone, which is cheesy, but it’s true. Those are the three core values we have for our family and they work for us. Everything flows out of those.

Was that fueled first by the experience or was that set beforehand with you and Noah? Was that more fueled by the experience with Wyatt and with Eden, your daughter?

It fueled by the experience, but we started it before they are online. There were little kids, but it was more fueled by us, recognizing our predisposition to want our kids to be successful, so we feel good. We want to get our needs met by being “good parents.” We started to notice these things coming up that we thought, “We’ve got to create some intention and vision around what is family because we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes that the generations before us have made. We also don’t want to be thoughtlessly operating out of our ego and this rule.” One of the most toxic conversations is around parenting. There’s a lot of good being done. There are a lot of amazing resources and a lot of people doing consciously and authentically.

UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

Giving respect to someone means giving them their own voice and experience, and not imposing your experiences on them.

 

For the most part, I’ve never been in such a high-performance comparison, almost cutthroat subcultures I have been with moms. It is part of the reason why I am thankful for WE because there are certainly fantastic moms in WE. There’s also a lot of single people or married people without kids. We don’t come around and connect first on being moms. That’s where sometimes, it can go awry. Not that it always will, because sometimes you want support. You want to talk about being a mom, but we’re not first mothers. We’re, first, women. It eliminates some of that intense comparison or judgment because it’s a charged issue. Parenting is charged.

It’s one of the most foundational identities we associate with. If you get to the core of identity, there’s not many that are going to be more of at your core, especially as a woman when you carry this human within you.

That’s more of the reason why you need to be careful. Careful is not my favorite word in that scenario, but conscious and intentional. That’s a lot to put on a person and it doesn’t change when they get older if they’ve absorbed that approach. My kids trust that they’re going to get to have their own life.

What is the greatest gift that your son, Wyatt, has given you in being on the spectrum?

Himself. You meet one person on the spectrum and say, “He’s just himself.” He shows up in a way that it’s not an idea. It’s not like, “We can’t operate by the constructs that society puts on us.” He is such a profoundly true human being and that is for better or for worse. He acts out of his instincts and not necessarily what’s being imposed upon him. He forces me to be honest both by his example and by the struggle of wanting to protect him or control things on how people see him. It’s been such a gift to have people in my life love him and get how unbelievably brilliant and special he is. It’s also been painful to see people reject him because he’s different. I have a special secret and what a gift it is, I recommend neurodiversity in your life. I recommend seeking out people who have a different perceptual framework, whatever that might be because it’s not an idea to me that we have different perceptions and experiences of the world.

I’m obsessed with the fundamentals of things. One of my favorite stories about Wyatt is that when he’s five, I looked at him and I was like, “Wyatt, I want you to know I love you.” It was simple. He looked back at me in the eye and he said, “Thank you.” I realized that I expected him to say, “I love you, too.” What’s cool about that was in his authenticity and his true spirit, he was receiving it. I realized that I had been living in this knee jerk reaction of I love you, too. When my husband says I love you, I’ll be like, “I love you, too.” I thought how vulnerable, true, and real is it to sit there and look me in the eye and accept that. It was a little moment that for whatever reason, these things happen and you don’t know why, but it affected me. I thought, “How else can I be more present, honest and real in my relationships and where am I going through the motions?” He is a teacher for me, he challenged me and I feel lucky.

What’s fascinating about that is when we say this, I was thinking about it with me and my mom. I’m like, “Why don’t we say I love you?” It’s scarier to just accept and it’s way easier to reciprocate. That’s what we think a lot of times love should be like, “You’re giving me love. Why don’t you give you love back?” It’s more out of duty or obligation than it is about pure desire. We know it subconsciously, but we usually don’t pick up on it consciously. That was a complete paradigm shift in a moment from your five-year-old son. Honestly, that’s something that I want to work on. One of the things I’ve been fascinated by about is men in their role and was godly masculinity looks like. How can we support men in that?

One of the things that I heard of that’s true is something like saying I love you to a guy is hard for guys to do in many ways. One of them is that we always will soften it and dehumanize it by saying, “Love you.” It completely removes the weight of it and it fastening that one word can shift it massively. It’s been an interesting process, but lots of fun. I want to touch on your creative side. As an artist, you’re described as a painter who creates atmospheric works and exploring line and space. They begin with documenting connections around a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

You attempt to observe and process how you’re navigating your body, relationships and atmospheres constantly around you. You’ve always been obsessed or interested in the unseen systems that we live by. I thought that was an interesting description of your work and specifically, in your art because there’s a lot of layers to it and it’s talking a lot about the experience, the unseen systems and documenting experience. What has your path been like as an artist? How have you morphed and come into being an artist?

We are in the most profound moment of human history for human connection. Click To Tweet

Finding my creative voice has been one of the most thrilling and gratifying experiences. It’s always changing, but it’s tapping into the source of who I am. That does translate or actualize in my paintings and my drawings. I’ll answer the abstract one first. I do want to tell you a funny story about how practical it was, too. Sometimes things are like that. They’re too deep and they all happened. One of the things that I’m getting old is hope and wisdom because I do think it’s been cool to look back on my life and see patterns. I do have enough time and experience to go, “Interesting.” The unseen systems are this overlap. I’m always interested in what’s going on under the surface. My spirituality is the biggest unseen system. Our connection with God, this divine love is the ultimate connection and relationship. It’s happening all the time and we don’t know it. We’re always immersed in this unbelievable experience of connection, whether we’re conscious of it or we’re not.

From that place, I’ve always been fascinated by the experience of God. I also translate that into neuroscience, phenomenology and these scientific perspectives on what we’re experiencing in consciousness. In many ways, a relationship is an unseen system. You and I have unbelievable sophistication in our nonverbal communication because autism is something that I don’t take for granted, but that other people do. That’s a gift that I’ve been given in that. I’m always interested in what’s happening on the surface. The cosmic and interconnectedness of my paintings is reflecting that. A lot of people talk about it in terms of the energy like I’m always picking up on these nuanced connections and experience in my body on how am I feeling. Am I breathing? Am I connected? Am I here? Am I in my head?

It comes back to my obsession, which is flow. My paintings are the intersection of my identity and my experience. It’s cool to have a medium to process and share that. The story I’m going to tell you about is how they came to be is interesting and I hope encouraging. I was a hyperrealist oil painter in college, which means the picture of people who are paying the most hyper-detailed, realistic. The process behind that was something I found challenging, but it wasn’t satisfying and I wasn’t connective. When I was a young mom, I was going through this crazy depression and I was over being an artist. I thought the whole thing is a sham. I’m a fake and impostor. I started to draw with a pen on paper as I would almost in high school doodling lines. It was fun. I was like, “This isn’t high stress or high pressure.” That’s how it started. I didn’t have money, time or space to oil paint anymore. I didn’t have the attention span because I had two little kids to do hyperrealism, so I went back to play. When I went back to play with my creativity, that’s when I tapped into my voice.

That highlights an interesting fear in creating art for everyone or at least for me and for a lot of people that are perfectionistic. Going back to that blank canvas of being afraid of the possibility in that, what could come and not being what you expected it to come. What are the fears for you in creating art, if any?

Honestly, I don’t have a fear of creating. I fear that I don’t know the process of what’s next for me as an artist. I don’t necessarily have space, energy or time to create a lot of vision around myself as an artist. I have that nagging internal dialogue of like, “You’re not doing enough.” I should refine my social media, my presence, doing these commissions and getting out there, but what’s interesting is as much as I do believe in removing limitations, I also know realistically that you can’t do everything. With the amount of time and energy, I’m dedicating to my company, I am putting in some ways on hold intentionally involving myself as an artist and continuing to sell my work. Take the opportunities as they come that I can do and that has that sense of flow rather than forcing anything through. To be honest with you, I haven’t hit a wall in this way that I’ve expressed myself. Down the road, I’m like, “It would be cool to take this from a 2D to 3D experience.” Court and I have installations and I’m always wanting to translate my work eventually as something that you can get inside. It’s more of that sense of transporting to a full experiential piece of art that you’re walking inside touching, feeling and seeing. I’d love to get there. I don’t know how to get there, but I don’t know that I have fear per se.

It’s an open loop, which creates some anxiety. Who is Brigit at 60?

I like to have a vision, but I also like to have a lot of open-ended vision. I would answer it experientially. As somebody at 60, I’m comfortable in my body, my relationships, and in my hopefully incredible muscles of pushing myself, growing, evolving, changing and never allowing for a static experience. I use a lot of extreme languages, but I do feel like probably the most powerful lesson I’ve learned is changing. I was a different person fundamentally years ago. I hope that I’m a different person fundamentally when I’m 60. That’d be fantastic and I don’t want to put on that person what that even would be or what would be good. I hope there’s a lot of laughter, creativity, and impact. I do want to make an impact in the way that I can and I want to be loose with what that word means. I do hold in mind my mortality a lot and hopefully, when I’m 60, I’ve been a woman who evolved and was fearless about it.

It’s like knowing the components you want to be there, but not defining the end-product in anyways. What does connection with God and faith look like for you?

It looks like alignment. I know when I’m in alignment and that’s because I’m listening. I talk a lot about listening to other people and I feel like listening to myself. Also, experientially listening to God. I believe that my connection to God is the source of my freedom, joy, and peace and the thing that has given me a value for connection because there’s no one more connective.

UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

Educated: A Memoir

Speaking of questioning assumptions, one of the themes is being always curious. What question are you asking yourself the most?

Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is, “How much is too much?” I’m suspended in change and in rapid evolution. Every area of my life is not familiar. I’m requestioning myself like, “Maybe that’s okay.” I’ve always had an idea of what it feels like to be grounded and anchored, and that’s important, but I’m curious around that. Maybe I’ll go a little further.

It’s always through the line of sustainability and like, “What parts of sustainability are oppressive versus helpful?”

I’m in no way downplaying burnout, but maybe it’s okay to go a little too far sometimes. Sometimes, I can be hard on myself to be balanced, even though my life looks extreme in some ways to people. I do try and stay within those parameters. I’ve had a few moments where I felt like I’ve hit a wall and I’m like, “It might not be the worst thing for me.”

What’s your favorite question to ask?

Tell me more like, “Who are you? What bring you alive?”

What books have had the biggest impact on you, personally?

One thing that’s had a huge impact on me is novels. I believe unbelievably strongly in the power of a story. I took a long break from nonfiction because I could feel that I wasn’t using it well. There’s an endless list of stories. I read this book called Educated that I felt it’s a novel, but it’s a memoir. I still can feel it inside me. It changed me. One of the books that had the most unbelievable impact on me was by Geneen Roth. She writes all of these books on disordered eating and the source of that. I have a history of disordered eating, but it wasn’t even about that. It was more of this history in many ways of self-compassion and this idea of listening to yourself and valuing what you want and enjoy your life. She was a huge catalyst for me, honestly. It’s going from a person who was hard on myself, disconnected and limited in my thinking to open that up. I highly recommend her.

If you could teach a class for one semester, what age would you teach and what subject would you teach?

The first step in finding balance in life is questioning your assumptions about your limitations. Click To Tweet

I would teach Relational Mindfulness to college kids. The number one extracurricular class at Stanford is Interpersonal Dynamics and that’s what everyone picks. I thought that was interesting. I would teach it to college kids, but in some ways, I am doing that. I’m teaching it to women and adults. Adult learning is fascinating and it’s a frontier that has a lot of potential and possibility to get creative about because we’re not doing that well.

What are you most excited about?

I’m an excitable person. I’m most excited about potentially moving. I’m closing on a house and that’s fascinating how that will change my community, relationships, and experience of this city. Honestly, removing my commute would change my life.

If you could send a morning text reminder to every Up & Comer, what would you say and why?

I would probably say, “Listen to yourself.” Hopefully, in some ways, that would prompt them to tune in and honor their experience, heart, and truths. Set them up for a day where they’re not doing some crazy mindfulness practice, unless they want to that takes a lot of time and effort. They’re honoring themselves and then from that place connecting with the world around them.

Brigit, this has been great. Where can people find more? Where should they look for your work, what you’re up to and connect?

WelcomeToWE.com or WelcomeToWE is the Instagram handle. As well as if you’re interested in my arts, it is my name, BrigitBellRitchie.com.

Check out her art. It’s awesome. I am a fan and she’s been doing some cool mural work, too, which had been sweet to see. Brigit, thanks again. This has been awesome and I’m excited to see more of what will come from WE.

Thank you so much for having me.

For all of you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week.

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About Brigit Ritchie

UAC 90 | Embracing Intensity

Brigit Ritchie is a painter who creates atmospheric works exploring line and space. After attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied Art Criticism and Painting, she made her way from Northern California to Los Angeles. Her paintings are both abstract and hyper-detailed using unexpected media to create a unique aesthetic.

Brigit leads creative lifestyle retreats and workshops all over the country with a variety of women’s groups and brands. Contact her for inquiries about upcoming events and speaking opportunities near you.

Brigit is co-founder of WE, a company that creates space for women to support women in LA through a twelve-week curriculum program as well as numerous events in the city. She loves living and working in Los Angeles with her husband and two kids.

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